NATIONAL NEWS

Men charged with vandalizing homes of New Hampshire journalists

Jun 16, 2023, 2:42 PM

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Three men face federal charges alleging they vandalized multiple homes associated with New Hampshire journalists in retaliation for a report detailing sexual misconduct allegations against a prominent businessman.

Tucker Cockerline, 32, of Salem; Michael Waselchuck, 35, of Seabrook; and Keenan Saniatan, 36, of Nashua, were charged with conspiring to commit stalking through interstate travel, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Massachusetts said Friday.

“Freedom of the press is a cornerstone of any health democracy and these three men are now accused of infringing on that freedom by conspiring to harass and intimidate two New Hampshire journalists who were simply doing their jobs,” said Christopher DiMenna, acting special agent in charge of the Boston FBI office.

The targets were a New Hampshire Public Radio reporter and editor. In six incidents in April and May 2022, their homes and the home of the reporter’s parents were hit with bricks, rocks and red spray paint. In one incident, a brick was thrown through the reporter’s window and the phrase “JUST THE BEGINNING!” was spray-painted on the front of her home.

The vandalism came after NHPR published an investigation into Eric Spofford, the founder of the state’s largest network of addiction rehabilitation centers. Spofford, who is suing the radio station, has denied the sexual misconduct allegations and said he had nothing to do with the vandalism.

Federal prosecutors, however, allege that a “close, personal associate” of Spofford’s solicited two of the three men to vandalize the homes, and that one of them recruited the third. In court documents, investigators don’t identify either Spofford or the associate by name but say cell phone and other records show they were in regular contact around the time of the vandalism, and that the associate also contacted Cockerline and Saniatan.

Investigators also said they used cellular phone location data and internet search histories to determine that the men searched for the relevant addresses and were near the homes at the time of the vandalism.

Cockerline and Waselchuck were arrested Friday and detained following an initial court appearance. Their attorneys declined to comment. Saniatan remains at large.

Neither Spofford nor his attorney responded to emails seeking comment.

Jim Schacter, president and CEO of NHPR, said in an email that everyone at the station is grateful for law enforcement’s persistence and trusts that the perpetrators will be held accountable.

“Journalists doing their jobs — reporting open-mindedly in the public interest – should not have to worry about threats of violence or attacks on their homes and their families,” he said. “That’s true for NHPR’s staff, and for journalists everywhere.”

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Men charged with vandalizing homes of New Hampshire journalists